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PARADISE LOST?
the first of those complete breakdowns which were to recur with
varying intensity throughout the rest of his long life and drive
him from society to the shelter of a mental clinic. His explosive
temper aggravated his difficulty. Profound fits of depression
humbled himself in his own eyes and he came to doubt the
soundness of his work. During one lucid interval he begged the
authorities at Halle to transfer him from his professorship of
mathematics to a chair of philosophy. Some of his best work on
the positive theory of the infinite was done in the intervals
between one attack and the next. On recovering from a seizure
he noticed that his mind became extraordinarily clear.
Kronecker perhaps has been blamed too severely for Cantor's
tragedy; his attack was but one of many contributing causes.
Lack of recognition embittered the man who believed he had
taken the first - and last - steps toward a rational theory of the
infinite and he brooded himself into melancholia and irration-
ality. Kronecker, however, does appear to have been largely
responsible for Cantor's failure to obtain the position he craved
in Berlin. It is usually considered not quite sporting for one
scientist to deliver a savage attack on the work of a contem-
porary to his students. The disagreement can be handled objec-
tively in scientific papers. Kronecker laid himself out in 1891
to criticize Cantor's work to his students at Berlin, and it
became obvious that there was no room for both under one
roof. As Kronecker was already in possession, Cantor resigned
himself to staying out in the cold.
However, he was not without some comfort. The sympathetic
Mittag-Leffler not only published some of Cantor's work in his
journal (Ada Mathematical but comforted Cantor in his fight
against Kronecker. In one year alone Mittag-LefiBier received no
less tfrsm fifty-two letters from the suffering Cantor. Of those
who believed in Cantor's theories, the genial Hermite was one
of the most enthusiastic. His cordial acceptance of the new
doctrine warmed Cantor's modest heart: The praises which
Hermite pours out to me in this letter ... on the subject of the
theory of sets are so high in my eyes, so unmerited, that I
should not care to publish them lest I incur the reproach of
being dazzled by them.*
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